Mudan incident

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Mudan Incident
Mudan Incident of 1871 tombstone.jpg
Location Formosa, Qing Taiwan (Taiwan Prefecture, Fujian Province, Qing dynasty)
DateDecember 1871
Attack type
Deaths54 [1]
Victim54 Ryukyuan sailors
Perpetrators Paiwan Formosans

The Mudan incident of 1871 (Chinese :八瑤灣事件) was the massacre of 54 Ryūkyūan sailors in Qing-era Taiwan who wandered into the central part of Taiwan after their ship was shipwrecked.


12 survivors were rescued by Han Chinese and were later returned to Miyako Island in the Ryukyus. However, because the Ryukyu Kingdom was in the Qing sphere of influence as well as the Japanese sphere of influence, the massacre was used as a pretext for Japan to eventually annex the Ryukyu Kingdom in 1879. Japan sent a military force to Taiwan in the Taiwan Expedition of 1874 in retaliation for the death of "Japanese nationals." The Mudan incident supposedly showed the weakness of Qing control over Eastern Taiwan, thus opening the door to Japan questioning the Qing dynasty's regional sovereignty.


Shipwrecks during this time period were common. Between 1701 and 1876, 278 Ryukyuan ships were wrecking along China's coast, with more than Ryukyuan shipwrecks along Taiwan's coast alone. [2] On November 30, 1871 four Ryukyuan tributary ships left the capital of Shuri, on Okinawa island, homebound for Miyako island and the Yaeyama islands (both in the Southern part of the Ryukyu Kingdom). However, before reaching home the four ships were blown off course and hit by a typhoon on December 12, 1871. [3] Of the two ships bound for Yaeyama, one was lost and the other landed on Taiwan's west coast. [3] Of the two Miyakojima bound ships, one made it back to Miyako, the other— whose sailors would later be the ones killed by natives— was shipwrecked off the coast of Southeastern Taiwan near Bayao Bay. [3] There were 69 sailors on the shipwrecked vessel, three of whom died trying to get to shore. [3]

Massacre on December 18, 1871

On December 17, 1871, the remaining 66 Ryukyuan passengers managed to get onto shore and reportedly met two Chinese men who warned them against traveling inland for fear of encountering the Paiwan people— who the men reported were dangerous. [3] Survivor's testimony also states that the sailors were robbed by the Chinese and afterwards parted ways with the men. [3]

On the morning of December 18, the Ryukyuans set out westward and thus encountered, presumably, the Paiwan people, who subsequently brought the Ryukyuans to Kuskus village and provided them with food, water, and housing for the evening. [3] Testimony from survivors again states that they were robbed during the night, this time by their Kuskus hosts. [3] The next day, under orders to stay in place while locals went hunting, the Ryukyuans tried to leave while the hunters were gone. As stated by historian Paul Barclay: "The presence of so many armed men, coupled with the rumors of head hunting that had greeted them on shore two days earlier, impelled them [the Ryukyuans] to make a break for it while the hunting party was absent." [4]

Many of the Ryukyuans sheltered in the home of Deng Tianbao ("Old Weng" in survivor's testimony), an elderly Hakka trading post operator. [4] However, on the same day, Paiwan men found the Ryukyuans in Deng's home, and dozens were killed outside of it, several more Ryukyuans were captured while fleeing and killed then. [4] 54 of the 66 Ryukyuans were killed in the massacre, nine managed to stay hidden in Deng's house, while three who escaped were captured by other Paiwanese people. [4]

The nine survivors at Deng's house were moved to a larger Hakka compound, Poliac (Baoli), where they were taken care of by the village head Yang Youwang. [4] Yang Youwang was also Deng Tianbao's son-in-law. Yang also arranged ransom for the three escapees in Paiwan hands, and ultimately sheltered the 12 surviving Ryukyuans for about 40 days. [4] The survivors were then sent to Taiwan-fu (modern-day Tainan), later taken to Fuzhou, and then returned to Naha in July 1872. [4]

People who rescued the 12 sailors

Victims and Survivors

NameName of originAssignmentAddressFate and others
Nakasone Gen-anChudoHead of a large communityHirara of MiyakojimaKilled, Huge body carried by two persons
Tanahara Gen-eiChudoHead of a townshipHirara of MiyakojimaKilled
Hoeshige GenkanChudoHead of a townshipHirara of MiyakojimaKilled
Takaesu YoshiyoMazokuHead of a townshipHirara of MiyakojimaKilled
Okudaira NiyaUnknownAssistant head of a townshipHirara of MiyakojimaKilled
Takaesu NiyaUnknownAssistant head of a townshipHirara of MiyakojimaKilled
Tanahira GenkyoChudoSecretaryHirara of MiyakojimaKilled
Hoeshige GenkeiChudoSecretaryHirara of MiyakojimaKilled
Takaesu NiyaUnknownSecretaryHirara of MiyakojimaKilled
Hirara KeiseiShirakawaSecretaryHirara of MiyakojimaKilled
Tsukayama KeigoShirakawaSecretaryHirara of MiyakojimaKilled
Soeishi NiyaUnknownSecretaryHirara of MiyakojimaKilled
Inafuku NiyaUnknownSecretaryHirara of MiyakoKilled
Takahara NiyaUnknownSecretaryHirara of MiyakojimaKilled
Aniya YoshimasaMazokuSecretaryHirara of MiyakojimaKilled
Yamauchi NiyaUnknownSecretaryHirara of MiyakojimaKilled
Yamauchi NiyaUnknownSecretaryHirara of MiyakojimaKilled
Shitahaku NiyaUnknownSecretaryHirara of MiyakojimaKilled
Ikemura NiyaUnknownMakata SecretaryHirara of MiyakojimaKilled
Magtsukawa KinNoneLower servant (head)Hirara of MiyakojimaKilled
Maekawa YashinNoneServant (head)Hirara of MiyakojimaKilled
Hamakawa KinNoneServant (head)Hirara of MiyakojimaKilled
Maedomari KinNoneServant (head)Hirara of MiyakojimaKilled
Futenma KinNoneServant (head)Irabujima of MiyakojimaKilled
Sakumoto KeizaNoneServant (head)Irabujima of MiyakojimaKilled
Ikema KinNoneServant (head)Irabujima of MiyakojimaKilled
Nakachiya MakotoNoneServant (head)Irabujima of MiyakojimaKilled
Nagahama KamaNoneServant (head)Hirara of MiyakojimaKilled
Uchima Ka-a-ryouNoneServant (head)Hirara of MiyakojimaKilled
Uchima YashinNoneServant (head)Hirara of MiyakojimaKilled
Kawamitsu KinNoneServant (assistant)Shimojimura of MiyakojimaKilled
Maesato KamaNoneServant (assiatant)Shirabejima of MiyakojimaKilled
Shimajiri ChabuNoneServant (assistant)Simojimura of MiyakojimaKilled
Nobara TsuroNoneServant (assistant)Shimojimura of MiyakojimaKilled
Sakugawa Matsu
NoneServant (assistant)Shimojimura of MiyakojimaKilled
Kawamitsu Kin
NoneServant (assistant)Shimojishima of MiyakojimaKilled
Oyadomari NiyaUnknownSamurai class follower (head)Hirara of MiyakojimaKilled
Karimata NiyaUnknownSamurai class follower (head)Hirara of MiyakojimaKilled
Karimata NiyaUnknownSamurai class follower (head)Hirara of MiyakojimaKilled
Sunagawa NiyaUnknownSamurai class follower (head)Shimojimura of MiyakojimaKilled
Matsukawa NiyaUnknownSamurai class followerHirara of MiyakojimaKilled
Kataesu NiyaUnknownSamurai class followerHirara of MiyakoimaKilled
Okuhira NiyaUnknownSamurai class followerHirara of MiyakojimaKilled
Shinjo ChokenUnknownGetting a liftShuri of OkinawaKilled
Miyagi MototakaUnknownGetting a liftShuri of OkinawaKilled
Taba KameNoneGetting a liftShuri of OkinawaKilled
Aragaki BouNoneGetting a liftShuri of OkinawaKilled
Nakamatsu BouNoneGetting a liftShuri of OkinawaKilled
Iha HiroyukiUnknownGetting a liftNaha of OkinawaKilled
Matsuda KameNoneGetting a liftNaha of OkinawaKilled
Aragaki NiouUnknownGetting a liftNaha of OkinawaKilled
Nakankadari KameNoneGetting a liftNaha of OkinawaKilled
Iju KameNoneGetting a liftNaka-atamaKilled
Nakasone MatsuNoneGetting a liftNakijin of OkinawaKilled
Shimabukuro JiryouNoneUnknownShuri of OkinawaAlive, father of Shimabukuro Kame
Shimabukuro KameNoneUnknownShuri of OkinawaAlive, died in 1926 at age 76, left documents
Jabana JiryouNoneUnknownShuri of OkinawaAlive, Interpreter in Chinese characters
Nakamoto KanaNoneUnknownShuri of OkinawaAlive
Tokeiji MatsuNoneUnknownNaha of OkinawaAlive
Shimajiri YonabaaruNoneUnknownNaha of OkinawaAlive
Zashiki BouNoneUnknownKeramaAlive, boatman
Takaesu MatsuNoneUnknownKeramaAlive
Shimoji NiyaUnknownUnknownMiyakojimaAlive
Hirara NiyaUnknownUnknownMiyakojimaAlive, in exchange for a cow
Taketomi NiyaUnknownUnknownMiyakojimaAlive
Urasaki KinNoneUnknownMiyakojimaAlive, in exchange for clothing

Shimabukuro Kame

Shimabukuro Kame (1850–1926) was a survivor and an important informant concerning the incident and victims. His father and he were lower class peichin without salary living at Shuri, Okinawa; there were 5 victims living at Shuri, and they were being given a lift on the ship. In 1872, his father and he were interviewed by the Ryukyu government. After the abolition of the clan, what they did was not known. In 1925, Kame sent a letter to Iha Fuyū who introduced Teruya Hiroshi who gave the address of rescuers, since Kame wanted to thank them. Teruya Hiroshi was deeply moved and after the addresses of Miyako victims were investigated by Motomura Choryo, the names of the victims were engraved into the tombs of both Taiwan and Naha.

Teruya Hiroshi (1875–1934) was born in Naha and studied at Daiichi Higher School and Tokyo University. He became a train engineer in Taiwan and later became the Mayor of Naha.

Motomura Choryo (1876–1937) was the town head of Hirara between 1917 and 1919. He gave information on Miyako victims.


"Although it became a truism among Japanese officials and subsequent chroniclers that Paiwanese Mudan villagers murdered the seafarers, residents of Kuskus, today known as Gaoshifo, were the assailants." [4] The title of "The Mudan Incident" remains a misnomer due to this.

A very real consequence of the Mudan Incident however, was the Taiwan Expedition of 1874. Despite the Ryukyu Kingdom being an independent state at the time, the Japanese government eventually demanded that the Qing government be responsible for the actions of the Paiwan, which the Qing government dismissed, on the grounds that "civilization had not been extended to the region." [6] The Ryukyu Kingdom court itself did not lobby Japanese officials to step in on their behalf for the victims of the shipwreck, in fact the Ryukyu court sent a reward to Chinese officials in Fuzhou for the safe return of the twelve survivors. [7] According to Professor Matayoshi Seikiyo, the Mudan incident was historically important for two reasons: it resulted in the "verdict that the Ryukyu islands belonged to Japan," and it "served as a stepping stone for the later occupation and colonization of Taiwan by Japan." [6]

Japanese officials launched the invasion of Taiwan in 1874 in name of avenging the deaths of the 54 deceased Ryukyuans. [8]

Mutual Misunderstanding and Contemporary Reconciliation

Most local, indigenous accounts of the Mudan Incident have been overshadowed by larger state narratives from Japan for two reasons: Ryukyuan languages do not have a writing system, and neither does Paiwanese. For this reason, oral tradition in the form of oral histories, testimonies, and depositions are utilized in both the Ryukyuan and Paiwan cases. [9]

Language also may have played a role in the incident itself. According to local Paiwan historian Valjeluk Mavalju, the offering of water by the Kuskus residents were a local symbol that offered protection and friendship. [3] “In Paiwan tribal tradition, drinking water offered by a stranger means agreeing to peaceful engagement between equals. But the abrupt disappearance breached that agreement, turning guests into enemies.” [9] The unfamiliar circumstances may have attributed to the Ryukyuans fleeing Kuskus, the language barrier between the Ryukyuans and Paiwan likely attributed to this misunderstanding.

Scholars of Taiwan and Okinawa such as Yang Meng-che, Matayoshi Seikiyo, Lianes Punanang, as well as local historians such as Valjeluk Mavalju have sought to re-examine the Mudan Incident through use of local oral histories, consideration of geopolitics of the time, and recenter both Paiwan people and Ryukyuans, not just as a precursor to the 1874 invasion.

According to Lianes Punanang: “On the whole, both my people and our Miyako counterparts were victims, but the sad thing is that their descendants have had to wait for 140 years to be able to talk about what reportedly happened.” [9] Reconciliation visits between descendants of the Miyako/ Ryukyuan sailors and Paiwan descendants have been taking place since 2004. [9]

Tomb and afterwards

The Japanese expedition army established a memorial tower in front of the tomb where Taiwanese rescuers made, and collected skulls, 44 skulls; 10 skulls could not be recovered. The skulls were transferred first to Nagasaki and then to Naha and buried there and later at Gokoku-ji (Okinawa) in the same city. In 1980, the tomb was made again anew, and related people attended the ceremony from Miyako Island. The tombstone however has been criticized by Paiwan and Okinawans as having a Japan-centric view, as well as being anachronistic. [9] In 1997, Fumio Miyakuni visited the related places and wrote a book. [10]

See also


  1. 臺灣歷史地圖 增訂版.[Taiwan Historical Maps, Expanded and Revised Edition]. Taipei: National Museum of Taiwan History. February 2018. p. 80. ISBN   978-986-05-5274-4. 1871年,一艘琉球國宮古島的船隻漂流到八瑤灣,登陸幾天後,54名船員因故被高士佛社的原住民殺害。
  2. Leung, Edwin Pak-Wah (1983). "The Quasi-War in East Asia: Japan's Expedition to Taiwan and the Ryūkyū Controversy". Modern Asian Studies. 17 (2): 257–281. doi:10.1017/s0026749x00015638. ISSN   0026-749X.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Barclay, Paul (2017). Outcasts of Empire: Japan's Rule of Taiwan's "Savage Border," 1874-1945. University of California Press. pp. Chapter 1: From Wet Diplomacy to Scorched Earth: The Taiwan Expedition, the Guardline, and the Wushe Rebellion" PAGE 50.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Barclay, Paul (2017). Outcasts of Empire: Japan's Rule on Taiwan's "Savage Border," 1874-1945. University of California Press. pp. Chapter 1: "From Wet Diplomacy to Scorched Earth: The Taiwan Expedition, Guardline, and the Wushe Rebellion" PAGE 52.
  5. Fumio (1998), p. 380.
  6. 1 2 Nishida, Masaru (November 24, 2005). "Japan, the Ryukyus and the Taiwan Expedition of 1874: toward reconciliation after 130 years". The Asia-Pacific Journal. 3.
  7. Barclay, Paul (2017). Outcasts of Empire: Japan's Rule on Taiwan's "Savage Border," 1874-1945. University of California Press. pp. Chapter 1: "From Wet Diplomacy to Scorched Earth: The Taiwan Expedition, Guardline, and the Wushe Rebellion PAGE 54.
  8. Lu, Ella (January 11, 2005). "Taiwanese Natives break Mudan Incident silence". The Japan Times. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 "Paiwan Aborigines and Okinawans meet to close old wounds". Taiwan Today. December 26, 2011. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  10. Fumio (1998).

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Fumio, Miyaguni (1998). Miyako tōmin taiwan sōnan jiken宮古島民台湾遭難事件 (in Japanese). Naha: 那覇出版社. ISBN   9784890950973.*
  • Tokutomi Iichirō (1961). 近世日本国民史[The history of Japanese nationals] (in Japanese). 90. Tokyo: 時事通信社.
  • Tani Tateki; Michio Hirao (1981) [1935]. 子爵谷干城傳 (in Japanese). Tokyo: 象山社. OCLC   672654800.

Coordinates: 22°09′07″N120°46′51″E / 22.15194°N 120.78083°E / 22.15194; 120.78083